22 October 2006

Edna's favourite blueberry muffins

Honouring a loved one who has died is something, I think, that spans beliefs, borders and eras. The way we pay tribute may differ, but at the basis of it all, funerary rites and other types of memorials are performed as much for the living as they are for the dead.

In our family, when a relative dies, we have observances that are directly tied to religious and cultural rituals that are hundreds, possibly thousands of years old. There are physical rules we abide by--such as those set by my great-great (something) grandfather as to how we are to be buried. There are spiritual observances--such as 40 nights of chants and prayers, led by family or Church elders. And then, there are the dietary restrictions we have--strict vegetarian diet for 40 days.

If I remember correctly, if the deceased had no brothers, then the sisters host a vegetarian feast after 30 or 35 days where all family members, friends and others who can attend, do. If there are brothers, then there is an omnivorous banquet on the 40th death day. These feasts take place after Church ceremonies and can attract hundreds, if not more than 1000 people (I attended a feast for my uncle when I was last in India and there were about 400 people there, to which my mum said that that was only 1/4 of the family).

Today is the 40th death day of our dear

About three weeks after her passing, a public memorial was held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. About 500 people attended. There were literary lights such as Wayson Choy, there were culinary notables such as Rose Murray, there were also a number of politicians, but what made it wonderful, was there were so many people who were just plain, normal people who were friends, acquaintances or fans.

Dear Friend introduced me to one of Edna's close friends:

"Oh! You're Jasmine!"
"Edna told me all about you!"
"She did?"
"Oh yes. She told me all about your visits and that wonderful Indian food you brought and what you do (and then proceded to give me details from my Edna visits, and the treats I brought her)."
I was speechless.
She continued,"You know dear, it was a very new friendship, but for Edna it was a very deep friendship."

I thought I was going to cry. Here I was thinking that this woman who touched me so deeply really didn't know me from the next fan who dropped in...I couldn't have been more mistaken.

The day was filled with little moments like that. Mr. Choy and I had a lovely chat about Edna and I told him that she really did like him a lot, filling him in on details of conversations. Even after her death, Edna Staeber continued her magical way of making each one of us feel special.

After the speeches and video clips we spilled into the reception, its tables laidened with sandwiches and sweets. Bowls of punch were off to the side as were carafes of coffee and tea. But everywhere--and I do mean everywhere- were wicker baskets filled with blueberry muffins. The Laurier catering team was given Edna's favourite muffin recipe (she was known for feeding muffins to visitors) and they made hundreds of them. The recipe was also given to each of us, along with a copy of her favourite poem.

I truly believe that death only comes when one has been forgotten permanently. The body may be dust, but memories are what keep us living. I think, through her many, many friends, and countless fans and owners of her books, Edna will be with us for a very long time.

So, in my own little space, here is one more way I hope to keep this wonderful person with us. I hope you try the recipe--it is effortless and forgiving...and somewhat addictive.

In her own words "I've eaten a lot of blueberry muffins in my day, but none as good as my sister Norma's."

Edna's Favourite Blueberry Muffins
50g soft butter (1/4 c)
125g sugar (3/4 c)
1 egg, well beaten
160g pastry flour (1-1/2c)
1/2 tsp salt
1 dspn baking powder (2 tsp)
125ml milk (0.5c)
150g blueberries (fresh or frozen) (1 c)

  • Preheat oven to 375F/190C and line or butter 12 medium muffin cups/9 large muffin cups.
  • Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Cream together butter and sugar. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Fold in blueberries.
  • Fill the tins (at least 2/3 full). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until done.


add this page to del.icio.us

Edit: Since posting this, I've found out the attendence guesstimate at the Laurier event was 500. I've amended the post...


Anonymous said...

In Japan, we remember the deceased on the 7th day and 49th day. There used to be a meatless meal that was eaten but nowadays most families just cater a small lunch or dinner at the memorial hall.

What a lovely tribute to Edna!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post - it made my eyes tear.

We don't have any traditions except lighting a candle on the anniversary of the death. not terribly commemorative... no?

Anonymous said...

We have no traditons in the Scottish world except to get drunk(pissed). This seems like a much better thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Jasmine, a touching post to commemorate a wonderful woman.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for teaching me another culture's rituals I did not know about.
What a lovely tribute to Edna. I know you will carry her memory and cherish her friendship forever.

jasmine said...

Hello all

Kat -- How interesting--especially from a numerological point of view. Seven and seven sevens...

VC -- I like that tradition very much. Candles--the light, the flame, the warmth--all very symbolic.

Peabody--I see nothing wrong with raising a glass to those who are no longer among us. I believe the alcohol that evaporates is known as "the angel's share" so think of it as merely catching up with what they've got going :)

Jenny -- Oh honey -- welcome back! You've been missed--I hope things are better now.

Helene -- As morbid as it may sound, death rituals are very interesting. Everything from foods, to clothing, to colours to music. It all says so much about who we are...